13 Sewer and Drain Tricks You Can Do at Home
SEPTIC SYSTEM MAINTENANCE
Everything mechanical has a designed purpose and requires maintenance. If the devise is misused or not maintained it will most likely fail. This is true of your septic system. Without a septic system maintenance program even the best-designed septic system will fail. The old saying “garbage-in = garbage-out” applies to your septic system. Your septic system is comprise of a delicate balance of living microorganisms and bacteria. If bad things are put down the drain, bad things will happen to your septic system. In conjunction with our remediation equipment, several other actions can be taken to improve the performance and extend the life of your septic system. Learn more on septic system maintenance.
REPAIR LEAK FIXTURES
A leaking faucet of flapper valve in the toilet can flood your septic system with hundreds or even thousands of gallons of water per day. The typical system is only designed for 75 gallons of water use per day per person.
Do not use flush-activated toilet bowl tablets or cleaners. These products contain high amounts of chlorine bleach that kills the bacteria in the septic tank. When these products are used in the toilet tank they damage the rubber flapper valve causing a leak.
TEST THE TOILET FLAPPER
If you have hard, rust and particles in your water, the debris can become logged in the toilet flapper valve causing a leak. Test the valve every month. When the flapper valve is leaking, you may hear a slight hissing sound coming from the toilet. Even if the hissing sound is not present the valve could be leaking. This is known as the “silent leak”. The “silent leak” will not flood the septic system as bad as a hissing leak; however, overtime a significant amount of unnecessary water can flow through the system. The best way to test the flapper valve is to allow the tank to fill normally. Then simply remove the toilet tank cover and drip three drops of dark food coloring into the tank. Do not flush the toilet. If the dye appears in the toilet bowl within an hour the valve should be repaired or replaced. A good time to perform the test is when you do another repetitive task such as making a monthly payment on your car, home or utility payment.
LANDSCAPING AND RAINWATER RUNOFF
Route your downspouts away from the absorption component. Do not modify the landscape adjacent to the absorption component so runoff water is directed towards it. If required, modify the existing landscape to divert water away from the distribution component. Do not plant trees or shrubs above the absorption component. The roots of the plant will grow into absorption component. Keep heavy vehicles off of the absorption component. The heavy vehicle not only compact the soils but also can crush the perforated laterals of the absorption components. The compacted soil is less permeable than loose soil. Also, the more compacted soil the more likely for the frost to reach the absorption component, causing freezing in the northern climates.
DUMPING RV HOLDING TANKS
Do not dump RV holding tank waste into septic tank. This produces a large surge of sewage to the system and will most likely force unthreaded effluent out of the septic tank into the distribution component. Also, most RV owners use some type of odor control chemicals. These are usually blue liquid tablets. These odor control chemicals are disinfectants to kill the odor causing anaerobic bacteria in the waste. When the disinfected waste is dumped into the septic tank it kills the bacteria in the system.
State and local codes may describe a pumping frequency. Do not pump more frequently than required by code. Most experts believe that systems should be pumped when the volume of sludge and scum reaches about 25-30% of the volume of the tank, which may be once every 2 to 4 years. A licensed contractor can monitor the volume of sludge and recommend a pumping frequency. Frequent pumping disrupts the biological process. It may take 6-8 weeks for anaerobic bacteria population to establish itself inside in the septic tank after pumping. It may only take 1-2 weeks for your tank to fill to the point where effluent is flowing into the distribution component. Therefore, for 4 to 7 weeks the effluent flowing out of the tank may not be fully treated. The partially treated waste flows into the absorption component and can cause clogging.
DIVERT WATER SOFTENER DISCHARGE
Discharge your water softener to another suitable location. Check you local codes and ordinances. Not only does the softener use a significant amount of water, the discharge contains salt. When the salt reaches the distribution component it can form an ionic bond between the soil particles creating an impermeable layer causing the absorption component to clog.
USE THE GARBAGE CAN
Do not flush chemicals such as caustic soda, acids, copper sulfate, chemical cleaners, paint thinner, latex or oil based paint, solvents, waxes, polish pesticides, poisons, fuel or motor oil or hazardous waste. Do not flush anything other than toilet tissue down your toilet such as filter tip cigarettes, sanitary napkins, or paper towels or rags, plastic objects or disposable diapers. All of these items cannot or are very difficult for the bacterial to break down.
INSTALL WATER CONSERVING FIXTURES
These are as simple as a wire mesh sleeve that slips over the end of the washing machine discharge hose to a more elaborate cartridge filter. We all know that the dryer filter must be cleaned regularly. The filter fills quickly with lint with each load of laundry. A similar process occurs in the washing machine. Small particles of the fabric are rubbed off of your cloths and float into the wash and rinse water. The fibers are then flushed then flushed down the drain into the septic system. The cotton material is biodegradable. However, many of today's fabrics are synthetic and are not biodegradable. Some examples are polyester, nylon, and rayon. If these materials flow into the distribution component these is absolutely no way for them to be removed other than replacement of the absorption component.
IMPLEMENT A WATER CONSERVATION PLAN
Many people have bad habits that can be broken. These habits can be running the faucet while brushing your teeth and hands, running the shower entire time while washing your hair and body, only partially filling the laundry wash machine with it set to large load, running the faucet to get a cold drink of water instead of keeping a bottle refrigerated.
USE PREFERRED HOUSEHOLD CHEMICALS
Most modern cleaning agents are very good at disinfecting and cleaning. Unfortunately, if they are flushed down the drain into the septic system, they continue their disinfecting action. This disinfecting can upset the delicate biological bacteria action of the septic system. When the cleaner kills the bacteria in the septic system, the system dies. The solids are not broken down and digested and flow into the distribution component.
Avoid or minimize the use of chlorine bleach and cleaners containing chlorine bleach. Many cleaners and dishwasher detergents contain chlorine bleach and anti-bacterial hand and dish soaps are only marginally better than the conventional soaps at decreasing bacterial. Studies show that using a little more clear water is just as or more effective in removing bacterial than the anti-bacterial products. Powdered soaps contain ground clay as a base. The ground clay can be carried into the distribution component and clog it. Avoid or minimize the use of powdered soaps and replace them with liquid soaps.
MINIMIZE WASTE DOWN THE KITCHEN DRAIN
Fats, greases, coffee grounds, egg or nut shells, and food are very difficult for the septic system bacteria to break down. Scrape all kitchen waste into the garbage rather than rinsing them down the drain. Avoid or minimize the use of the kitchen sink garbage disposal. These are great appliances but should only be used when the house is connected to a sewer system.
SEWER & DRAIN DO'S & DONT'S
Inspect your tank for signs of sludge buildup and mage sure the baffles and tees are in working order.
- Pump your tank as needed (every 2-3 years for year-round residences, and every 4-5 years for seasonal residences), and keep a written record for yourself or the future owner.
- Compost food garbage or put it in the trash.
- Keep grease can handy.
- Mark your septic system so you can protect it from vehicles and encroaching trees and shrubs.
- Conserve water; install water-saving devices, such as low flow faucet and shower heads.
- Use non-toxic cleaning products such as baking soda to scrub toilets or boiling water to help clean clogged drains.
- Contact a site evaluator if your septic system shows signs of failure; contact your local plumbing inspector if you see evidence of other malfunctioning septic system.
- Request that your site evaluator designs a loam liner for your leaching field if the site has sandy soil.
- Plant shrubs, trees, and grasses downhill from your system to act as a sponge (it will tie up excess nutrients and water as well as prevent soil erosion).
- Don't use a garbage disposal – it adds 50 percent more solids to your system
- Don't pour automotive oil, cooking oil, or grease down the drain.
- Don't drive vehicles over the septic system or leach field.
- Don't use too much water, especially during rain, wet seasons when the ground is saturated.
- Don't pour paint or paint thinner into your sink (let it air dry then throw it out in the trash).
- Don't use drain cleaners and other toxic chemical products.
- Don't use drain cleaners and other toxic chemical products.
- Don't use chemical or biological septic system cleaners which can plug up leach and ruin your system.
- Don't wait – if your septic system shows signs of problems, act immediately.